Is recruitment a key to better workforce mental health?

I think the recruitment strategy and function holds many of the aces!

It’s been a year now since I made the conscious decision to add mental health campaigning / consultancy and stress diagnostic product development to my professional toolkit.

This year of learning, personal development and practicing has enabled me to establish and confirm that a strategically focussed approach to recruiting excellence, can surface many of the reasons why some workforces experience greater incidences of poor mental health, which can then be challenged and rectified at source.

I’ve been told my 20 years of recruiting, digital recruiting and recruiting technology and innovation experience, within recruitment organisations, job boards, trade associations, direct employers and consultancy clients is quite unique, which combined with my lived in experience of crippling OCD, where my brain is wired differently to most, enables me to approach challenges and solutionising from a different direction. An absolute positive from a debilitating negative!

It’s probably why I brought together everything I learned over the last 20 years into a simple ‘six pillar talent lifecycle model’ which if followed and applied ‘in order’ delivers an optimum end to end approach to recruiting, managing, developing and retaining the very best, and most productive, people.

So how does this hold the key to better workforce mental health?

Great recruiting businesses will fully understand their short, medium and long term recruiting demands, recognise ‘jobs as products’ and ‘candidates as consumers’ to attract optimum applicant flow in a continually digitising world, provide a simple and enjoyable candidate processing experience, professionally match and select the best talent to each role, ensure each new colleague lands seamlessly via a partnership between line management and HR and ensure the continual development and succession of those brought into the business.

It’s during elements of this process that a priority consideration for people’s mental health and a focus on aligning with the business mental health strategy, can reap demonstrable rewards.


During workforce planning and skills matching research businesses surface the critical skills needed to excel in specific roles, and the volumes of people with these skills required over a particular timescale.

In certain situations the very best people businesses covet, will have mental difference and require reasonable adjustments to navigate the traditional and online recruitment process, and ultimately reach optimum performance within the working environment they join.

Progressive businesses, line managers and recruiters will look beyond the challenges this presents and focus on the positive outcomes of increasing the organisation’s ability to think differently, achieved by encouraging potentially the best equipped, capable, loyal and productive individuals to join them.

Diverse hiring should therefore extend to developing and mining talent pools of people with intimate mental ill-health experience, in partnership with organisations that currently support those with different forms of mental difference.

Any reasonable adjustments made, and enhanced focus on compassionately managing and supporting people’s mental health, actually benefits all. In essence, everyone wins by businesses being more mentally inclusive!


It would be interesting to compare the specific and published company employer brand and employee value proposition messaging, to the real-life experience and perception of the three out of five employees on average that have experienced mental health issues due to work in the last year, and 15% of people that found themselves subject to disciplinary procedures, dismissal or demotion, after disclosing a mental health issue to a line manager! Great work by BITC to surface these statistics in the ‘BITC Mental Health at Work Report 2017‘.

We also know that stress is the number one reason for lost working days from the workplace per annum, which supports the above suggestion that what gets published and promoted, isn’t necessarily the experience for all. Because there is logically going to be such disparity from both ends of this particular spectrum, I expect we could all look at how authentic our employer brand and employee value proposition messaging actually is and if it is a true reflection of everyone’s reality.

So what I’m recommending here is benchmarking the invariably positive outcomes of the employer branding and employee value proposition articulation work with the reasons for attrition, absence and employee relations statistics of the organisation, including incidences of employee litigation.

This fuller picture will enable the business to align its messages to reflect everyone’s reality, and surface more evidence for a greater focus and effort to improve people’s mental health to improve wellbeing, productivity and hiring outcomes. In the extreme this exercise might just create a major realisation moment for the leadership!

Employer brand and employee value proposition statements start getting scrutinised the minute each candidate submits their application. They must be authentic or the business will get found out very quickly!

Mental health and wellbeing is such a high profile and emotive subject at present and any employee supportive initiatives should be covered in detail on the career site and via attraction marketing channels, e.g. business / social networking and rating sites. It’s essential because people have choice and would prefer to join businesses that can give them gainful employment, and simultaneously demonstrate they care for people and the wider society.

Businesses naturally can’t display this if they don’t do it, or will get found out if they fall below par, so to compete with others to attract the best people, they must also invest in providing the best working environment, conditions and experience. In essence, investing in enabling people to bring their whole selves to work and thrive, ensures they actually will and will attract others!


Invariably where the majority of face to face activity takes place in the recruitment process and where recruiters, and line management, get the opportunity to spend time with applicants and be humans.

Using the ‘jobs as products’ and ‘candidates as consumers’ theme, this is where businesses get to sell applicants and they get to sell themselves back. If recruiters are equipped at this time to be authentic and compassionate, through the business being both of these as well, true and excellent matching can take place.

In the long run it ultimately serves no purpose for any party in this process to b/s another. If one does, a poor match will be made and if this carries through to hire the reality will come out eventually. We all know the ‘two way’ costs associated with a poor hire.

Here then lies another early warning system, reality checking, benchmarking stage in the process where a recruiter and / or hiring manager simply needs to ask; “do I truly believe in what I am selling to this person, and can I evidence it?”

I feel for recruiters and line managers that are either stressed, or challenged by their own mental health, tasked with recruiting people into an environment that is knowingly (let’s hope not) or unknowingly impacting on their own personal mental health.

If at this stage a recruiter and / or hiring manager is in a position where they are needing to dress up the opportunity to join the business, something is wrong. However, surely this gives them a tremendous opportunity to challenge the business and encourage it to focus on improving the working lives of every worker, leading with a focus on mental health.

I need to stop

I feel I could write for days on this subject so will stop there because I think (hope) I have made my point. The mental health of the workforce is of paramount importance supported by excellent research, the most recent being the ‘Thriving at Work’ report by Government.

Recruitment is the entry point to the business and supposedly set up to sell the virtues of it to those that may wish to join it. That’s why it needs to balance the positive and negatives to be authentic, and by doing so might just hold the key to identifying where the business hasn’t got it quite right, why it hasn’t got it right, and what it needs to do to change.

I’m passionate about recruitment, mental wellbeing and stress diagnosis, and love talking to businesses about either of them. I’m looking for that first innovator, however, that wants to blend all three! Any takers, I’ll buy the coffee!

All the very best.

Colin – 07887 480142